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Podcast: Merkle’s Data Worldview


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Six months ago, Dentsu officially closed on its $1.5 billion acquisition of CRM and digital media agency Merkle. The post-deal integration is “a story with two plots,” according to John Lee, Merkle’s chief product and data officer.

The first plot is a straightforward portfolio expansion, with Merkle taking its place alongside Carat, iProspect, 360i and other sister Dentsu shops.

The second plot is the onboarding of Merkle’s platform and data group as a centralized resource at Dentsu. In this episode of AdExchanger Talks, Lee talks in depth about that asset, dubbed M1, which he calls “the data and connectivity power plant that serves all of the agencies.”

Merkle’s goal with M1 is to provide a huge people-based media planning resource. The unit can ingest data from any source.

“All we need is some form of identifier in that data, and we apply our universal ID to that,” Lee said.

Merkle also cultivates connections to publishers to identify audiences on various platforms, including television and private marketplaces.

Merkle’s whole mantra is that all media decisions should be linked to real individuals.

“Why would you plan hundreds of millions of dollars of media off a panel of 40,000 or 70,000 people and build proxies,” Lee asks, “when I can use the client’s actual data – people who bought pickup trucks last week or auto insurance – and model that against every living, breathing adult in the US, and use that as the basis of truth?”

However, Lee acknowledges marketers are only gradually improving their use of first-party data. He says if you gave a report card to every company in the Fortune 500 based on whether it had created a single view of the customer in a way that’s usable for omnichannel marketing, “The brutal truth is … there wouldn’t be a lot of A’s.”

Also in this episode: How Merkle charges for its data capabilities, publisher data leakage, Google’s search data asset and an update on the in-housing trend.

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